The new Apple iPad Air and the ultrathin waterproof Sony Xperia Tablet Z are arguably two of the best designed and premium slates currently on offer, so we are pitting them against each other to ease your choice.

Apple's iPad series basically started the tablet craze, and is still its strongest and most recognizable ambassador amongst users. Android caught up in market share over the span of few years, treading the slate waters with devices at various sizes and price points. It is still lacking badly in the number of tablet-optimized apps compared to iOS, though.

Furthermore, Jony Ive's design team managed to come up with the iPad Air this year - the lightest 10-incher out there, while still keeping the premium aluminum chassis and slenderizing the build even further. When we talk about slender, though, the Xperia Tablet Z is the world's thinnest tablet, and it will work even if you dip it in water, so it has a lot going for it, too. Will that be enough to choose Sony's tablet before Apple's formidable iPad Air? Read on to find out...


As we mentioned in the intro, the fight is between the world's lightest and the world's thinnest 10” slates here, meaning both are engineering marvels on their own take. Sony put a slightly larger 10.1” display compared to the 9.7” one in the iPad, hence the Tablet Z is about an inch taller. It makes up for this with the record slim 0.27” (6.9mm) chassis, though with 0.3” (7.5mm), the iPad Air isn't far behind either.

When it comes to weight, Apple's aluminum slate is just about a pound, or 469 grams – an amazing feat considering that it sports a premium metal chassis. Not that the Xperia Tablet Z isn't very light for a 10-incher, too, at 17.46 oz (495 g), and it also sports a nice soft-touch material for the chassis. That's the weight of a Tablet Z with cellular connectivity, though. The iPad Air version with cellular weighs a bit more than the basic version, at 1.05 pounds (478 g), so we can call the slates about even in industrial engineering.

The rubberized housing of the Tablet Z doesn't look as premium as the precision cut aluminum of the iPad Air, but such a craftsmanship is for a good reason, since Sony's tablet is IP57 certified, meaning you can dip it in up to three feet (1m) of water, and it can stay there for half an hour without any damage. Not that you'll be dipping it pointlessly, but watching movies or browsing for hours in the bathtub becomes possible, and you won't worry about spilling something on the Tablet Z while following recipes off of it in the kitchen. The iPad has a whole satellite universe of accessories, though, so you can quickly make the iPad Air waterproof with a case, too, but it won't be quite as... airy in that case.

As far as the handling experience goes, the aluminum iPad Air is much more slippery than the soft-touch rubber on the back of the Xperia Z, so Sony's tablet is the one allowing a better grip. Both slates, however, are so thin and light for their 10” category, that using tablets with such screen diagonals has never been easier on your wrists.

The buttons on both slates are easy to feel and press, with good tactile feedback. The iPad Air's power/lock key position at the edge is a tad more ergonomic compared to the signature circular metal key of the Xperia Z, as you only have to comfortably extend your index finger to push it. In addition, the volume rocker beneath the Tablet Z's lock key is a bit too thin to be comfortably pressed, and its key travel could be deeper.

Looking further around the sides, Sony's tablet also features tight protective flaps on top of the memory card, headphone and charging ports, which have to be closed tight for the waterproof certification to do its deed. Since the iPad Air doesn't have expandable memory, its only openings are the Lightning port and an audio jack. The iPad also doesn't sport the Xperia Z's infrared sensor, which comes in handy to control home electronics with the tablet, and has an accompanying app that can schedule and switch to TV shows for you, if your cable provider supports this feature. Sony offers a quad-speaker system on its tablet, with two small opening on the sides, and two at the bottom, while the iPad has two speakers flanking the Lighning port.


The 9.7” iPad Air has hands down a better display than the one that comes with the Xperia Z, as it is equipped with perhaps the best tablet screen out there. We aren't talking only about the excellent 2048 x 1536 pixels resolution and 264ppi pixel density, as there are tablets with more pixels and higher densities. What we mean is that the display shows very realistic colors. It sports in-cell touch technology, which means the touch layer is woven directly in the screen panel itself, returning a sharp and very bright image.

The Xperia Tablet Z still sports a very nice 10.1” display with 1920x1200 pixels of resolution, which returns a decent, 224ppi pixel density. The colors look a bit washed out while in the interface or apps, but Sony's Mobile BRAVIA Engine 2 bumps up the contrast and makes them more saturated when showing pictures or video. The on-cell touch tech removes the typical air gap between the touch layer and the display, reducing reflections and increasing backlight throughput, but not at the level the in-cell touch package of the iPad Air does it. In addition to the higher peak brightness of the iPad Air compared to the Tablet Z, which comes very handy outdoors, the iPad also sports much lower minimum brightness, so it is more comfortable on your eyes in complete darkness.

As for viewing angles, both tablets perform admirably, with contrast and brightness starting to noticeably shift only at extreme angles, which is good if you are sharing your tablet screen with someone.



1. pyradark

Posts: 895; Member since: Jun 10, 2012

1st!! Xperia tablet Z is the best

10. emadshiny

Posts: 1144; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

Waiting for an 8 inch tablet from Sony. If they can manage to make it perfect like Z, it will be great.

14. emadshiny

Posts: 1144; Member since: Dec 05, 2012

And also i wish PA would review Vaio Tap11 as well. Thats a great Windows tablet.

2. mr.techdude

Posts: 571; Member since: Nov 19, 2012

IPad clearly takes it in almost everything

3. anleoflippy

Posts: 596; Member since: Jan 03, 2013

Both are great devices. Both have their advantage and disadvantage to on another. To each their own.

4. dil2abu

Posts: 315; Member since: Nov 09, 2011

Xperia Tablet Z for me any day.. Best in class

5. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

Xperia Tablet Z is also looking premium but PA PA.

6. PhoneArena Team

Posts: 258; Member since: Jun 27, 2006

You are absolutely correct; due to a technical error the first paragraph of the story was missing, but it is now added. "The new Apple iPad Air and the ultrathin waterproof Sony Xperia Tablet Z are arguably two of the best designed and premium slates currently on offer, so we are pitting them against each other to ease your choice."

9. itsdeepak4u2000

Posts: 3718; Member since: Nov 03, 2012

:D Thanks.

7. bucky

Posts: 3795; Member since: Sep 30, 2009

The sony is a great tablet I'm sure. I just got the iPad air and i absolutely love it. I honestly can't fault it for anything other than no USB port.

8. Scomii

Posts: 25; Member since: Nov 22, 2013

Considering that the Xperia is an older device and runing an older Android version. I'll have hand it to Sony.

11. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Tablet Z looks so COOOL

12. xperiance

Posts: 44; Member since: Oct 22, 2013

Xperia tablet z still in the chase....even after being almost an year old...well done sony......

13. darkkjedii

Posts: 31614; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Looks like you can't go wrong either way. I chose the retina mini 64 gig.

15. PBXtech

Posts: 1032; Member since: Oct 21, 2013

I've owned a Z since June, incredible tablet that surpasses every expectation I had for it upon initial purchase. Battery life is incredible, super light weight, and the screen is beautiful. Sony nailed it with the Z, now all they need is a great Bluetooth keyboard case for it.

16. imparanoic

Posts: 88; Member since: Oct 15, 2012

clearly, phonearena does NOT even mention specific unique features for Xperia Tablet Z, namely dual shock ps3 joypad native support (which is very impressive) and MHL connectivity with sony IM750 adaptor ( cost around HK$200 /US$25/GBP20) which is CEC compatible, which you can control your tablet ( and display content on TV) via tv remote, thus, use it as media player, do anything with the tv remote apart from taking calls Note that the Apple Lightning to HD which is near equivalent which cost hefty US$45/HK$398/GBP40 has bad ratings, can't even display some streamed video, not 1080p, severe limitations, no CEC control

17. imparanoic

Posts: 88; Member since: Oct 15, 2012

Apple Lightning to HDMI adaptor is apparently not even very compatible with many modern TV and buyers can stated it's overpriced, maybe apple wants use to buy lightning to minidisplay port adaptors instead

18. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

No video comparison coming?

19. LeeC22

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 27, 2013

Being an owner of both Xpera Z and iPad, I can assure you that there are several errors in this article. 1) Realistic colours: I can only presume that the author has never used a system that displays accurate (thus realistic) colours. I have, I do it every day, and I can assure you, the iPad does not display realistic colours. It displays bright, high contrast, oversaturated colours, which the current generation of users believes equates to realistic. It's probably a sign that they don't get out too often, to see what the real world actually looks like. Turn off the pointless Bravia engine on the Xperia Z, then you'll see almost realistic colours. Side-by-side with my calibrated displays, the Xperia Z is almost identical, the iPad is far from it. 2) Build quality: The Xperia Z has probably the worst build quality I have ever encountered. Read the Sony support forums, search for "bloated back", "screen flexing" or "apps running by themselves when you flex the screen". The line "soft-touch rubber on the back of the Xperia Z" should give it away. It's soft, therefore not rigid. It's rubbery, which by nature bends. Neither of those are what you want to support a glass screen. If you hold the Xperia Z by the wrong corner, all sorts of mysterious things can happen. If you run your hand across the bulbous back, you might hear the delightful cracking sound, where the glue is failing to hold the back together. And you also might start to see signs of ever worsening backlight bleed, because everything is flexing apart. My iPad doesn't flex by even the slightest amount, no matter how I hold it. 3) Then there's the performance. It's bad enough that the Xperia Z runs on the already sluggish Android OS, but it is clearly underpowered. Try copying a 1080p video onto it through windows, and you'll get asked "This video might not play, would you like to convert it?". So they give you a nice 1920x1200 resolution display, on a machine that struggles with 1080p video... good call Sony. Then again, all the pointless Google background services that Android insist on running probably has something to do with it. If you do a hard reset, you might get to enjoy a video or two before it all slows down again, and you go back to stuttering playback. What Sony have given us, is a £250 tablet, at a premium £399 price. They have jumped on the rarity of near 16:9 tablets, to persuade video watchers to buy it. And it works, I didn't want a 4:3 tablet to watch 16:9 videos on. I gave up 4:3 when I sold my CRT TV many years ago, so it was either the Xperia Z or the Surface. The Xperia was the cheaper option... in a very literal sense of the word. I would certainly advise against the Xperia Z, if anyone asked me to recommend a tablet... unless they were willing to tolerate the sub-standard quality.

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